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Ohio defenseman Jacob Houston (#11) controls the puck during the Bobcats’ game on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, in Bird Arena.

Hockey: Illinois defeats Ohio in an unexpected midnight showdown

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The ball was coming to an end. Cinderella was already on her way home and had lost her slipper as the puck dropped for the game between Ohio and Illinois four minutes shy of midnight.

The Bobcats lost 2-0 in the semifinals of the Central States Collegiate Hockey League Tournament to the host Illinois. Despite the score, the two teams played equally through two periods of play.

Neither team was able to get on the scoreboard, as both goalies were playing exceptionally. The game changed with 16:20 left in regulation, though, when Illinois scored the first goal of the game. Fifty seconds later, the Fighting Illini scored again on the power play to push the lead to 2-0.

“We just had a breakdown on our coverage on the penalty kill,” coach Cole Bell said. “The second one was just a puck in front of the net. We’ve got to find a way to win that battle.”

The Bobcats still had their opportunities to score in the game. They had two power plays that were five minutes apart from each other. Even though they generated quality chances during those times, they could not find a way to get past Illinois goalie Jake Barnhart.

Barnhart was exceptional for the Fighting Illini, and the third-seeded host upended the second-seeded and fourth-ranked team nationally. 

The most interesting aspect of this game, however, came before the game even started.

Ohio had to wait longer than expected to play its game against the Fighting Illini. The game between Lindenwood and Iowa State went to overtime and played in not one, but five overtime periods. A total of eight periods of hockey were played, and it was the longest game in ACHA history.

To add to this delay between the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime, there was a Zamboni malfunction. This delayed the start of the first overtime by seven-and-a-half minutes.

When the Zambonis were resurfacing the ice, one of the two dumped a pile of snow on the ice. That led to about an eight-minute delay to the start of overtime, and it left an excessive trail of water down the center-left side of the ice.

The puck for the Bobcats and the Fighting Illini was supposed to drop at 7:30 p.m. CST. The Lindenwood-Iowa State game didn’t end until 11:04 p.m. The puck dropped at 11:56 p.m. for the second game of the day. The game started on the birthday of Shawn Baird and finished on Ryan Leonard's.

Ohio stood along the side of the ice, watching the game go on like everyone else. It had to stay loose and fresh, but doing so for four-and-a-half hours isn’t easy.

“Had they stayed focused and locked in since then, they would have been at this for seven or eight hours,” Bell said. “I don’t even think that is physically possible. So we really didn’t say much. We let the guys watch the game, try to stay loose, stay awake and keep the energy.”

With the spring time change, when the game finally finished between Ohio and Illinois, it was 3:19 a.m. CST.


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